Local Control Polling: “Terrorism” Enjoys Broad Public Support

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, there's a simple reason why the oil and gas industry and their political allies are losing their minds about ballot measures supported by Rep. Jared Polis to increase local control over drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

It looks like they're going to pass.

The poll from Benenson Strategy Group asked voters about two of the proposed ballot measures, both backed by Polis, D-Boulder. Initiative 88 would require drilling rigs to be set back 2,000 feet from homes — four times the current state rule. Initiative 89 would create the so-called Environmental Bill of Rights…

The measure changing existing setback requirements to require any new oil or gas well to be located at least one half mile from the nearest occupied structure initially passed 64 percent to 21 percent, then 56 percent to 35 percent after poll recipients were read a series of negative arguments against the measure — the same arguments Coloradans will hear on the campaign trail.

For those who don't know, Joel Benenson is Barack Obama's lead pollster, and his firm has a reputation for accuracy. And as you can see, this was no leading-questions poll: respondents were subjected to the industry's arguments against the initiatives, and they would still pass.

The other measure includes a provision that if state and local laws conflict the more restrictive law or regulation governs. It initially passed 64 percent to 27 percent, then, after the negative arguments, it passed 52 percent to 34 percent.

As readers know, the rhetoric over these initiatives has really become extreme in recent weeks, with lobbyist Steve Durham bombastically denouncing Polis as a "terrorist" for supporting them. What we're seeing here is the other side of the coin: strong and enduring public support for better protection of local communities from the harmful effects of drilling.

News coverage of these initiatives so far has been unusually one-sided in favor of the oil and gas industry, and overly focused on the failing effort by Gov. John Hickenlooper to broker a "compromise" that would "keep these measures off the ballot." Lost in that narrative, much to the industry's relief, is something critically important: what the people of Colorado want

But they won't be able to ignore the votes this fall.

18 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BoulderDem says:

    Those are NOT particularly good poll numbers for a ballot initiative. Initiative numbers only go one way, down, over the course of a campaign. Arguing for "no" is always easier than yes, and the undecideds nearly always go for "no" or don't vote. As a result, initiatives that start in the low sixties are still dicey if they have any significant opposition. Although I would love them to pass, with $40m going into the "no" campaign I think these both fail, probably by double digits.

    • Ralphie says:

      The way most people vote on ballot initiatives:

      "When in doubt vote NO"

    • bullshit! says:

      I'd want to see the poll questions to be sure, but if they're really hitting them with all the oppo message and still ahead, this is good news.

      "Starting in the sixties is still dicey?" If that's not spin from CRED, I don't know what the hell is. Are you sure you want them to pass?

    • bullshit! says:

      I hate to do this, but you're not being honest and I can't fucking stand dishonest spin doctors.

      I went back to previous posts about these initiatives looking for comments from you, since you say you would "love for them to pass." That's not what you said a few weeks ago.


      Except that when the campaign actually happens, it won't be about "local control." It will be about jobs, and Democrats will be front and center in opposing it (Hick, Salazar). One of the things $30m or whatever amount buys you is the ability to determine the terms of the debate. The only times you will hear the words "local control" will be when the proponents get on TV, and they'll be swamped by tear jerking stories of families afraid of losing their jobs.

      The enviros need to get on board the compromise train, quickly.

      I don't know who you are, or who you speak for. There are lots of good Democrats on the wrong side of this one. But I'm calling you out for not being honest in your arguments. Please don't do that when it's easy to find.

      • Duke Cox says:

        One of the industries' big problems is they don't trust each other… or anyone else. Many of them count on buying elections, others count on buying legislators. I have rarely seen unanimity among the oily boys except when it comes to fighting for the status quo.They can usually agree on the goal…just not on how to get there.

    • Republican 36 says:

      BoulderDem, you're correct. These aren't particularly good poll numbers for the "yes" side of these ballot measures. Assuming the poll is correct, the "no" side has already reduced support to the mid-50% on one and low 50% on the other measure. These numbers don't bode well for passage of either one. 

      • Progressicat says:

        I'm not sure I agree.  Each of the samples seems to have some "nonvotes" as the totals don't add up to 100%.  This means, for example, that in the 64/21 split noted for initiative 88, 75% of those with an opinion were in favor of the initiative.  In the follow up with negative ads, more undecideds decided and some folks switched to "no," leaving only 62% of those with an opinion in favor.  I also didn't see an indication that the subjects were exposed to the pro-side argument.

        I don't think the initiatives are a slam dunk, but there's not enough here to say that they're likely not to pass.

        • Republican 36 says:

          You may be right. My opinion was primarily based on the fact this poll was completed in May 2014. Most initiatives, if they have a chance of passing, must be polling in the neighborhood of 70%+ or they are probably in trouble. Obvioulsy, the ammount of resources the pro/cons have to put into the campaign plus unforseen events could have a dramatic impact on the outcome but as a "rule of thumb" most initiatives need to be way above 50% to have a chance of passing in November. 

  2. BlueCat says:

    If the O&G crowd is so afraid of losing why are they still fighting the legislative compromise? There was just another anti-compromise O&G op-ed in the Post. Sounds like they're ready to roll the dice. And I do think the numbers after the anti arguments do show that it will be a very dangerous roll. It's not just the numbers for those who would vote for. The vote against never got out of the mid 30s on either measure.

  3. mamajama55 says:

    Safecleancolorado.com is the organization collecting signatures for #88 and #89. They've been at dozens of July 4th events.

    I like the language of 89, stating as it does that the more restrictive of local or state environmental law governs.

    But I have no idea how legally binding it would be. It doesn't seem to set any penalties for industry or local governments for disregarding this  environmental "commons". It seems to be more about creating a precedent for "the commons" of public right to clean air and water. You legal eagles on here, what do you think about the enforceability of this legislation?

    I would have preferred something more limiting on fracking specifically, but perhaps the 2000' setback rule covers that.

    Initiative #88:

    Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a statewide setback requirement for new oil and gas wells, and, in connection therewith, changing existing setback requirements to require any new oil or gas well to be located at least 2,000 feet from the nearest occupied structure; and authorizing a landowner to waive the setback requirement for any structure located on the owner’s property?

    Initiative #89:

    Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a public right to Colorado’s environment, and, in connection therewith, declaring that Colorado’s environment is the common property of all Coloradans; specifying that the environment includes clean air, pure water, and natural and scenic values and that state and local governments are trustees of this resource; requiring state and local governments to conserve the environment; and declaring that if state or local laws conflict the more restrictive law or regulation governs?



    • mamajama55 says:

      What's funny about the Log Cabin ad is that they're attacking Polis for  ballot initiatives he is NOT supporting – 75 (Pcat calls it the "Lotus Plan"  it would hold local control over any state or federal laws, so will quickly be ruled unconstitutional if it is voted in), and the Boulder Home Rule  initiative, which would basically do the same thing for Boulder County, making the old joke about the "People's Republic of Boulder" into a reality.

      So let the LCRS spend their money and have their fun, I say…meanwhile, we should work on 88 and 89, which Polis supports –  the initiatives which can pass with the voters and with the Colorado Constitution.

      • MichaelBowman says:

        I was in Boulder over the weekend and discovered the I-75 petition gatherers have stopped canvassing and are focusing on the Boulder County Home Rule initiative.  I-75 isn't happening.  Blow your wad, Log Cabin Boys…it's for naught.

  4. GetInformed says:

    Pretty funny.  One, there's 20 employees shown on this pollster's website and not a one of them have ever worked a ballot measure.  Two, that probably explains why it didn't occur to them to poll the actual language in 88 that will appear on the November ballot, but instead a "feel good" conceptual question about the 2,000-foot set-back.  Polling the actual ballot language is fundamental. It's a funny thing, these published polls, for they never disappear from the Internet que.  This might be a good visibility play for Polis with respect to his base, but his guy Ridder is going to have to explain in his next gig how he took a 65% sure-victory and turned it into a 40% dog.  

Leave a Reply

Comment from your Facebook account

You may comment with your Colorado Pols account above (click here to register), or via Facebook below.